Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fazoli's Inside a Walmart and Where the Heart Is

Posted By on Wed, Feb 23, 2011 at 4:00 PM

Fazoli's and Walmart go together like cheap wine and cigarettes. - COURTESY FAZOLI'S
  • courtesy Fazoli's
  • Fazoli's and Walmart go together like cheap wine and cigarettes.

If you had to name one corporation and one person out for world domination right now, it'd be a no-brainer: Walmart and Natalie Portman. And now, with an assist from the fast-casual Fazoli's chain, Walmart is stepping up its game. Last week, with much flack-stoked fanfare, Fazoli's cut the ribbon on the Nation's First Fazoli's Inside a Walmart. It is, in fact, the nation's first Fazoli's Inside Anything Other Than Fazoli's, as the Kentucky-based chain branches for the first time into the realm of what's known in the trade as "non-traditional units."

In our very own south county, no less!

Such a confluence of events practically cries out for an installment of "Dinner and a Movie." And what better movie than Where the Heart Is, in which Portman's character lives -- and gives birth! -- in a Walmart, after her deadbeat baby daddy abandons her.

The staff at Walmart's first Fazoli's (3270 Telegraph Road, Mehlville; 314-845-1744) is composed chiefly of friendly and chipper teenage girls. One such specimen greeted us and promptly presented us with a crucial choice: "Will this be dine-in or carry-out?"

"Will this be dine in or carry out?"
  • "Will this be dine in or carry out?"

Those who are familiar with the Fazoli's modus operandi know that dining in brings a substantial fringe benefit, in the form of an all-you-can-eat supply of the restaurant's signature breadsticks.

Two pizzas gazed up at us from beneath their respective hot lights and that ubiquitous piece of clear plastic known as a sneeze guard. One pizza, cheese. The other, pepperoni. If there's any benefit to this display, it's that you see how big the slices are and are reassured that one slice of cheese pizza will pair nicely enough with an endless supply of breadsticks.

That said, you might not want to hang around long enough to gorge on breadsticks. (Breadsticks being what they are -- baked spears of bleached, non-nutritive starch.) Because to "dine in" at a Walmart feels, well, strange. Whatever else Walmart might represent on a global cultural and socioeconomic level, it's not a place where one feels inspired to linger. It's pretty much "get your stuff and get the hell out." Endless breadsticks notwithstanding, a visit to Walmart more appropriately involves dining in one's car. In the parking lot.

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